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Use News Releases for More Than PR

I’ve been down on news releases before on this blog, but only because I think there are better options for securing publicity. That doesn’t mean you should ditch news releases all together. There are other benefits to writing and distributing news releases.

News releases help you maintain brand awareness, keep core audiences informed, improve your PageRank and increase website traffic. Press releases should be a staple of your ongoing communications program, and It would be a mistake to stop writing and sending news releases.

While not all activity in your company is worthy of coverage in a reputable media outlet, you should still consider sending a news release out on a wire service to keep your customers informed, improve your PageRank, drive traffic to your website or maintain brand awareness in your target markets. If these goals are important to you, consider sending a minimum of one news release per month…The challenge with sending a release a month is it’s not always easy to come up with good ideas for a news releases. Unless you’re a professionally-trained journalist, sniffing out stories in your company can be tricky. Even if you are a journalist, you might not think some news is actually news. I’ve provided some excuses for you to write a news release below.

I’m suggesting these as excuses to maintain brand awareness, keep your customers informed and driving traffic to your website. You should NOT send these releases to media outlets, unless you know they cover this sort of things.

  • Launch a new website – most people will tell you not to waste your time announcing things like a new website – I would normally be one of those people. However, if you want to announce your new website (and provided there is something of value on your site), why not announce it? I recently advised a company to try it out and they received several hundred unique visitors from the release the day their new microsite launched – they thought it was worth it.
  • Add or change a service – if you add a new service, or change something with the services you currently offer, announce it in a news release. You should also tell your customers via phone, email, fax, Twitter, Facebook, and any other medium they tune into, but send a release too. Who knows, you might generate interest from new customers.
  • Hire somebody – if you hire a new employee, send out a news release. Personnel releases don’t get a lot of pickup, unless the new employee is a director of above. More important than the publicity, let the employee know you appreciate them. Let your clients, partners and other employees know you’ve expanded your team. There are a lot of benefits to sending out a new employee release.
  • Give them a raise – along the same lines as the new hire release, if you promote somebody, let the world know. You’d be surprised how many people in your network don’t know the other people that work with you. Sending out a news release is a great way to announce that.
  • Fix something that’s broken – sometimes things break. Sometimes servers crash. Sometimes you make customers upset. When bad things happen, fix them fast and let everyone know you did.
  • And when things go right – a lot of organizations do case studies or testimonials for their websites or marketing collateral. Customer success stories also make great content for a news release. What’s better than “Customer saves X dollars with Y service”? The trick with success stories is getting past the lawyers (getting approval to share success metrics publicly), but don’t give up. It’s worth the extra effort to try and make this happen. If you don’t have any luck, send your happy customers a Flip camera and a list of questions you’d like them to answer – turn those into video testimonials for your website or YouTube Page (you can embed the video into a release later, as an example of a happy customer).
  • Offer a significant sale or discount – don’t just put a sign up in your window or put your circular in the weekend edition, announce your sale or specials in a news release. If you can, include a link to a page on your website where people can download and print a coupon (a great way to track the ROI of your PR efforts).
  • Host an open house – you go to your office every day, so you might not realize how cool it is. Why not host an event at your office and invite people in to check things out?
  • Talk about growth – do you have more employees now than you did last year? More money? More anything? Write a news release and summarize your progress. A lot of companies want to keep this information private, and I respect that, but it’s one of the easiest ways to get business reporters in your market interested in writing about your organization. Don’t be afraid to talk about numbers.
  • Share lessons learned – have a bad year? Make a mistake in the past that taught you a valuable lesson? Why not help other businesses learn as well? You can package your release as ‘tips’ for entrepreneurs, or adapt to a tips release for whatever industry you’re in.
  • Share survey results – one of the most-successful press release tactics I’ve seen used in the past is to conduct a survey and package the survey results as a report or news release.
  • Research – find you can’t find information on a particular topic? Rather than search tirelessly for research that might not exist or cost thousands of dollars, do your own research on a topic – piece together information that exists across a lot of different sources online and package the results in a report. Highlight your findings in a release and distribute it. In this instance, you could probably get publicity with this type of release.
  • Share your opinion or perspective – is there a particular issue in your industry that you just have to chime in on? If you can’t get media attention to share your opinion, just package your perspective as a news release – a statement if you will – and distribute it. It lets people know where you stand on a topic. You should tread lightly on controversial topics that could have a negative impact on your business – and if you have any doubt at all, consult with your public relations manager (or lawyer) before sending something out that could backfire.
  • Promote employee activities – your company has a family picnic, a holiday party or you all go play paintball. Get some of the great pictures and include them in your release. Why would you do a silly thing like that? The next people you hire might like to see stuff like that. Culture is important when people are searching for that next job. Happy employees make for quality work product too – customers like to hire companies with friendly and productive team members.
  • Interview customers or employees – is one of your employees an expert on a topic? Do you have an interesting client? Interview them on a timely or interesting topic. You can play the role of journalist for a change.

A Couple More Points on Why This is So Important

For most of these examples, you could easily use your blog as the medium for communicating these topics. You won’t get all the SEO benefits of a news release, but in some ways, the blog will benefit you more. I like using both (provided you don’t use duplicate content). If you don’t have a blog, you should certainly consider using news releases as your outlet.

If you send out a minimum of one news release per month, and each release gets picked up an average of 12 times, and you include links to your website(s) in the release (preferably with anchor text), that’s at least 144 new inbound links to your website. But really, that’s the worst case scenario. You will probably do more than 12 releases, and the pickup would be much greater than that. And that doesn’t include the inbound links generated from social media.

Inbound links are only part of the SEO boost you get from news releases. If you’re posting the releases to your website, and summarizing your releases as a blog post or newsletter article, you’re adding to the number of indexed pages on your site.

When you consider that it takes 12-16 impressions (if you believe in reach and frequency) before somebody remembers your brand name, how could you go wrong sending out a few news releases? If you make it a habit to share your news, you’ll have fewer people asking “so what does your company do” at networking events.

I hope this list helps you brainstorm some new press release ideas for your company. If you have ideas I didn’t cover in this list, please add your thoughts in the comments below.

What do you think? What are some other excuses to write a news release? Do you agree that news releases should be used as internet marketing or customer communications tools?

About Jeremy Porter

Jeremy Porter is co-founder and editor of Journalistics, a lively blog about public relations and journalism topics.

  • http://www.PublicityHound.net Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

    You’re correct. News releases seldom results in big stories. Use them primarily for SEO.

    iOther excuses to write a news release:

    –Share tips with your target audience on how to solve a problem that your product or service can solve for them. Link to the sales page.

    –Publicize major or minor publicity you’ve received elsewhere.

    –You received an award.

    –FAQs about a product or service. Link to your website where consumers can find more FAQs.

    –You’ve joined a trade group or industry association.

    –Joint ventures with other businesses.

    –Announce a new article you’ve written. Excerpt tips and link to the article.

    –Announce a White Paper you’ve written. Excerpt tips and link to the White Paper.

    –A contest.

    –A poll or survey.

    Have fun with press releases.

  • http://www.augure.com Pascal Jappy

    Hi Jeremy, great article. But why “excuses” ? ;o) To me press releases are still an integral part of PR and that SEO is a modern goal for PR practitionners.

    That said, your list of excuses is excellent. In a B2B context, a major new deal is a good excuse as are those suggested by Joan: a new article or white paper, a new partnership …

    I think the important point here is to avoid the spamming that has given press releases such a bad image and to write efficiently. I very recently wrote a post on this. You can find it here: http://blog.augure.com/2010/11/05/8-ways-to-write-better-press-releases/

    Cheers,
    Pascal @AugureRepMgmt

    • Jeremy Porter

      Pascal – you know, now that you point it out, ‘excuses’ doesn’t sound as good as it did in my head. Thanks for sharing your post – good tips.

  • http://www.mynewsdesk.com Charlotte Ulvros

    Great read and suggestions. I think using news releases solemnly for the purpose of communicating with your customers are underestimated. This is something that can be used much, much more often, especially if the company decides to take the social route.

    Allow the customers/readers to openly, in real-time, comment on the news release, and dare to comment back. With increased transparency and engagement, the customer loyalty and retention rate will increase, as well as attracting possible new customers.

    Why not use a release to start a conversation or for crowd sourcing? Ask for customer feedback on new products, customer service improvments, possible new product ideas etc. And of course, make sure these news releases and comments are possible to share with other interested influencers.

    Imagine your news release with positive or negative matters (that you of course can answer honestly about and come up with a solution/explanation about) and relevant photos/video etc spread by your “readers” to their Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and maybe Flickr accounts without you even having to do the work? Of course – the SEO aspect is also great with the links etc.
    Talk about the possibility of creating buzz around your brand/issue on a lot of places at the same time. Engaged customers reading your news releases and interacting with the material are probably the strongest influencers you can have in today’s fast paced digital life we lead.

    Interesting to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Jeremy Porter

      I like your ideas here. As I mentioned in the post, a blog is perfect for this type of stuff. If your organization doesn’t have a blog, a news release is a great substitute. Thanks for reading and adding on.

  • Jeremy Porter

    I’m not surprised you had some great additions. Thanks Publicity Hound.

  • http://foodiot.com Rob Anderson

    I couldn’t agree more with the post & some of the feedback here (particularly in terms of what can be achieved via press releases). I believe in the wire service use, but this can be very cost prohibitive for smaller clients (and, in this day and age, even some larger ones). If wire service distribution is taken out of the equation, does it change your argument at all?

    • http://foodiot.com Rob Anderson

      Also wanted to say “thanks” — you’ve helped me jump-start a great Twitter conversation on this topic. Will have to hashtag it soon so others can join in.

  • http://www.marketwire.com Nick Shin

    Disclosure: I am the SEM & Social Media Specialist @Marketwire.

    We’re calling them “excuses” now? LOL. Great list though. I’d stay away from the term “pagerank” as it’s becoming more and more irrelevant, if not already, as confirmed my multiple Google employees. Instead a big part of the SEO “boost” is being able to increase inbound links and being able to enhance your release with anchor texts.

    Nick (@shinng)

  • http://www.ipressroom.com Chris Bechtel

    Great tips Jeremy. I actually like the phrase “excuses” because I have seen a lot of large and small companies dismiss issuing a release as they felt it was not “hard” news and would not have interest for any mainstream media outlets. And that is true (as you state, don’t send these releases to media outlets unless you are sure they would have interest), but, I still see a lot of organizations that do not yet see the value in what you are suggesting – from a web visibility perspective. The key in all of what you are suggesting, in all of these “excuses” is to still ensure that what you are writing will have value and be interesting to someone or some group of your target audiences (no matter how small). At, iPressroom (hosted online newsroom provider), we recommend clients follow what we call the F.A.R.E. model in content creation and this applies to news releases: Frequent, Authentic, Relevant, and Engaging. So, ideally, the content is valuable enough to niche audiences that you care about, that they will link to it, share it, and maybe even discuss it. Look for ways to; tell big guy vs little guy stories, highlight the unexpected or unusual, take a local angle, tie into a current news trend, or reveal news that bucks a trend. And finally, just do it! The costs of inaction are far greater than the costs of action.

  • Pr Broadcast

    Most of the ideas presented for generating press releases are really helpful and actually I have never thought some of them. My only concern is that ok its good a business to have an updated website, but time is money for everyone, so even the most loyal client wants to spend time in reading something interesting or at least enjoyable. We should our followers, by providing worthy news otherwise they will just “click” another site.

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  • http:/businessposts.net Business Posts

    Informative and inspired post – thanks! Apart from all the valid SEO issues, under-resourced local and regional print media seems to be increasingly desperate for news and therefore reliant on well-written releases. Indeed, even B2B news sites – no space restrictions! – seem keen to publish items so long as they are at least slightly more interesting than a shopping list.

    However, in the event of having a corker of a story – containing one or all of conflict/topicality/human-interest formula – I’d humbly suggest that it’s worth identifying relevant journos and contacting them first with a w/w/w/w/w email asking if they want an exclusive FBSR opportunity.

    Thanks again – and consider yourself bookmarked!

    8-)

  • http://businessposts.net Business Posts

    Informative and inspired post – thanks! Apart from all the valid SEO issues, under-resourced local and regional print media seems to be increasingly desperate for news and therefore reliant on well-written releases. Indeed, even B2B news sites – no space restrictions! – seem keen to publish items so long as they are at least slightly more interesting than a shopping list.

    However, in the event of having a corker of a story – containing one or all of conflict/topicality/human-interest formula – I’d humbly suggest that it’s worth identifying relevant journos and contacting them first with a w/w/w/w/w email asking if they want an exclusive FBSR opportunity.

    Thanks again – and consider yourself bookmarked!

    8-)

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  • J.S

    Hi, I just stumbled on your article and have a question that I was wondering if you could perhaps answer?

    If I have an online blog, and find press releases on the web, can I then use them? I don’t have a business or anything but just want to share the news with my readers: so how does that go legally? Or is press releases just for businesses?

    Btw, thanks for the post!

    • http://blog.journalistics.com Jeremy Porter

      Press releases are made to distribute news to as many places as possible. As such, unless otherwise specified, you can quote press releases verbatim. If you want to cut and paste the entire press release into a blog post and add an intro from yourself about why you’re sharing, you’re able to do so. Just to cover your bases, it’s a good idea to attribute the source of the release (e.g. the sender’s website, PRNewswire, etc.). Good question.

      • J.S

        That cleared things up for me. Thank you for the answer.

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